Once Upon A Time creators Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz are bringing in top-notch writer-producers to help them mount a proposed Once spinoff for ABC and ABC Studios. The studio is closing overall deals with Prison Break alum Zack Estrin and Once consulting producer Jane Espenson that would cover their services on the spinoff. Details about the spinoff are being kept under wraps but I have learned that it takes place in Wonderland. While the original idea was to use Once‘s character of Mad Hatter to transition to the new world, that plan was ultimately dropped. I hear the story will now be told through the point of of view of Alice, who has not appeared on Once, surrounded by several new characters. According to a casting breakdown released last week, they are Amahl, described as exotic, soulful and optimistic; and The Knave, a sardonic adventurer, a man of action, a loner and a heart-breaker. The spinoff takes place in a post-curse world, though, like on Once, there will be flashbacks, so we could potentially see familiar faces, including Barbara Hershey’s recently departed Cora, who was the Queen Of Hearts in Once‘s Wonderland.
I hear the idea is to air the spinoff in 13-episode season arcs with a beginning, middle and end, similar to FX’s American Horror Story, possibly bridging the fall and spring portions of Once. Kitsis and Horowitz handpicked Estrin and Espenson to help them with the spinoff after the two pitched the idea to ABC topper Paul Lee and got a thumbs-up. Kitsis and Horowitz are currently writing a 15-20 page, four-scene presentation with input from Estrin and Espenson. Production is slated to begin April 7 in Vancouver, immediately following the season wrap of Once there. If the project goes to series, Estrin is expected to run it with Kitsis and Horowitz, while Espenson, who has been a key member of Once’s writing staff since after the pilot, will likely return to the flagship drama, which Kitsis and Horowitz will continue to run. It is not clear how the Once spinoff would affect NBC’s modern-day Wonderland pilot from Anthony Zuiker, which was pushed off-cycle before ABC’s plans for a Wonderland-set Once spinoff surfaced.
For WME-repped Estrin this marks the second consecutive overall deal at ABC Studios. Under the most recent one he served as showrunner on ABC’s The River and Zero Hour. Battlestar Galactica alumna Espenson is with CAA. Once is one of ABC’s top series and a big DVR performer. Season to date, the fairytale drama has averaged 2.98 rating among adults 18-49 in Live+Same Day and 4.34 in Live+7, a 43% jump.